Bread and Cup

This article is a continuation of James Jordan’s article, “From Bread to Wine“. 

We will here investigate the use of the word “cup” for the wine. I suggest that the cup itself corresponds to the firmament shell between heaven and earth, and that the liquid in the cup corresponds to the waters above the firmament. The bread is earthly; the wine is heavenly; and the cup is between.

Before Jesus’ ascension into heaven, no human being went into the highest heavens. Departed saints lived in “paradise,” “Abraham’s bosom,” “under the altar” (Revelation 6). They were in the nice part of sheol, but not in heaven. Now the saints are positioned in the heavenlies, in the highest heavens, where Jesus is enthroned.

During the former time of history, the saints fought earthly enemies. But now we fight not only against flesh and blood, but also against principalities and powers in heavenly places. In the New Creation, the saints engage in warfare both on earth and in the heavens, through prayer. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” we are told.

We have looked at the progression from bread to wine as a progression from priest to king and prophet, from Old Creation to New Creation. It is also a progression from lower to higher, from earthly to heavenly, and this can be seen especially when we consider that now all the people are prophets (Acts 2), and that the prophet is a member of the heavenly Divine Council, which back in the days of Job consisted only of God and the angels.1

What of the cup, then? Jesus might have “taken wine” and given it, but He is said to have taken the cup. We find in 1 Kings 7:26 that the brim of the great Bronze Sea was “made like the brim of a cup” (compare 2 Chronicles 4:5). Now the Bronze Sea, like its associated ten Water Chariots and the earlier Tabernacle’s Laver of Cleansing, represents the firmament, and its waters represent heavenly waters. In all three cases, the cup is held off the ground on a pedestal, on which it rests as a separate item. Water had to be taken up and dumped into it, and then the priests had to climb ladders again and get the water out of it and bring it back down. This seemingly pointless and tiresome activity recapitulates the work of the second day of creation. The water is taken up into a firmament, and then “rains” back down as baptismal waters from above.2

The association of these laver-firmaments with cups is all we need understand to see that the cup of the Lord’s Supper speaks of the firmament, and its contents speak of heavenly contents. If eating the bread reunites us with the earth and with our priestly earthly calling, drinking the wine unites us with heaven and with our heavenly kingly and prophetic callings.

We can go further with this symbolic consideration. Jesus poured out His blood while he was held up off the ground on the cross. Jesus is the firmament mediator between heaven and earth. His body is the cup, and His blood is the wine in the cup, poured out as the new covenant, as the heavenly phase of the covenant.3 In terms of this, we again consider the breaking of the bread as the abandonment of Jesus by His disciples, since the loaf represents the community as well as the individual body of Jesus. The bread is broken when Jesus is abandoned by the rest of His body. After this priestly death, he is crowned with thorns and given a royal robe as king by the soldiers, and elevated to the cross-throne. Then the blood-wine is poured from the cup of His crucified body.

If we arrange these items spatially, the bread is of the earth, Jesus on the cross is of the firmament between heaven and earth, and Jesus blood is of the highest heavens, the waters above the firmament. Thus, the bread of the Supper speaks of earthly priesthood; the cup itself speaks of kingly exaltation under heaven; and the wine in the cup, which is poured out into us, speaks of prophetic enthronement in heaven itself.

With these associations in mind, we can understand better why cups and cups of wine are associated with kings in the Bible, and not with priests. The priest does his work standing in the Tabernacle, with his unshod feet in contact with the soil of the earth.4 The king, however, sits on a pedestal, a throne, elevated above the earth but under heaven. The king is in the firmament position. The cup containing wine is a symbol of the throne carrying the king. Notice also that the priestly Laver of Cleansing is not said to have had a lip like that of a cup, while the Solomonic Great Sea is associated with the cup.

Drinking wine, which is above the cup itself (above the shell of the cup), can be seen as the king’s drinking the advice of the prophets.5Pharaoh’s cupbearer was his chief “prophetic advisor.” This is clear from the fact that Joseph becomes the chief cupbearer, and he speaks of his silver cup as that which he uses when he gives such prophetic advice to Pharaoh (Genesis 44). Nehemiah was such a prophetic advisor to the king called Artaxerxes in the Bible (Nehemiah 1:11). Repeatedly the Bible speaks of God’s giving wicked men cups full of His blessing or wrath, and such language does not appear until we get to the Psalter, where David the king is given the contents of such cups, and in the prophets, where God gives various cups to various people. The content of the cup is God’s prophetic blessing or curse, as administered not to a priest but to a king, and usually by a prophet.

It is no accident that alcoholic beverages are called “spirits.” The prophet, as advisor to the king, is what the Spirit is to Jesus. And as Leviticus 17 tells us that life is in blood, so the Spirit of life is associated with blood as well as with alcoholic spirits. Jesus’ outpoured blood is a symbol not only of His death, but also of the pouring out of the prophetic Spirit from His bodily cup.

Thus, to repeat what we wrote above, when Jesus gives us bread, He makes us priests. When He gives us a cup, He makes us kings. When He gives us the contents of the cup, He makes us prophets. The movement is from earth to firmament to heaven.

To repeat with more careful nuance: Jesus gives us broken bread, so that we become priests who are willing to die for others, as He did. Then He gives us wine, blood, Spirit. From His cup, His body, the wine moves into our cups, into our bodies. In this way, Jesus gives us the Spirit, coming to us as a prophet and treating us as kings. Just as we act like true priests when we eat the broken bread, so we act like true kings when we drink the outpoured wine. Then, as the wine permeates us, as the Spirit permeates us, we grow from being kings to being prophets ourselves, so that we also begin to pour out our own good spirits for others. Eventually the firm cup of our lives, of our bodies, of our kingly power, will begin to break down, and eventually it will crack and die; but our spirit will continue to flow to others in our eldership, and even after we are gone for a time as people remember us.

A final consideration. To this point, we have considered the breaking of the bread and the outpouring of the cup as marking the ends of the priestly and kingly periods of Israel. But in fact, they mark out the entire periods, from the beginning. To be a priest is to be someone who is willing to be cut off from others in order to do one’s task. To be a king is to be someone willing to be poured out in death for others. Let us now explore this in a bit more detail.

Circumcision was an action that divided the human body into two parts, cutting it in half. It represented Abram’s separation from all the other people of the earth as God’s appointed priest to the nations. At Sinai, when the nation entered its priestly phase, Israel was cut off from all the other nations by the laws of diet and uncleanness, and by other such provisions. These established the “dividing wall” between Israel and the nations. Thus, being broken off from the rest of humanity, even from God-fearing Gentiles, for the sake of the rest of humanity, is an essential aspect of priestly service.

We must consider Jonathan, son of Saul, if we are to understand the relationship of death and being poured out to the establishment of the kingdom. Jonathan was crown prince, but he gave his armor and his sonship to David. Jonathan died, pouring out his blood fighting God’s enemies, so that David could become king. This action on the part of this great saint established the pattern that all the kings were to follow. They were to risk their lives for the sake of their people. The king must be willing to pour out the cup of himself that others might receive the benefit of his shed blood.

James Jordan is scholar-in-residence at Theopolis. This article is adapted from his book “From Bread to Wine.” 

References   [ + ]

1. Specifically, the ascension of the saints to thrones in heaven, as enthroned prophetic advisors to The Throne, came in AD 70. For a discussion, see my A Brief Reader’s Guide to Revelation (Niceville, FL: Transfiguration Press, 1999).
2. See my monograph, Chariots of Water: An Exploration of the Water-Stands of Solomon’s Temple (Niceville, FL: Biblical Horizons, 1991).
3. The Bible speaks of men as vessels in such places as Acts 9:15; Romans 9:21-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, and other places.
4. There are no shoes among the garments of the priests (Exodus 28). Like Moses, he is unshod on holy ground.
5. Saul became an adopted son of Samuel when he prophesied and was thought of as one of the “sons” of the prophets. King Rehoboam refused to listen to the elders, and acted foolishly, splitting the kingdom. Elijah and Elisha advised kings, and in 2 Samuel the kings frequently call the prophets “father.” King Zedekiah’s quixotic responses to Jeremiah’s advice pervade the book of Jeremiah.